Saturday, February 4, 2012

Start Writing and Don’t Stop

Do you have a writing project that you can’t seem to get moving on? Is there an article you need to finish, a short essay you need to begin, or page proofs you must attend to?

We all have different relationships with our writing, and most people have at least one kind of writing they find harder than other kinds. In this post, I will discuss one strategy that will help you to finish that very project that seems interminable.

The strategy I suggest is to find 20 to 30 minutes a day each weekday to dedicate to the project. (Or, try using a pomodoro timer.) When the time comes to work on it, turn off all distractions. Turn off your phone. Cut off the Internet. Put all of your reading material away. Open the document and work on it for 20 to 30 minutes.

56/365 morning run
Do not stop before 20 minutes are up for any reason. Well, anything that is not a real emergency, like a fire alarm. If, while writing, you realize you need a reference, or need to double-check a piece of information, or need to go back to your data, do not stop to check anything. Instead, make a note to yourself about that and find something else to do in the document that does not require fact-checking.

If you get stuck on a word choice, put down both words. You can make stylistic and grammatical changes later. There is no need to stop to check the thesaurus.

Don’t stop to check your data or to fix your tables. Just keep going and make a note to yourself.

Don’t stop for anything. It is only 20 to 30 minutes, and nearly all phone calls, emails, visitors, and even bathroom breaks can wait.

If you dedicate just 20 to 30 minutes to your writing project, you will be surprised to see how quickly you are able to move it along.

When you are nearly done, or when you find yourself with more time and less resistance, you may be able to take a longer writing session to tie things up. You can also use longer writing sessions to go back and check your references, make word choice changes, and fix your tables.

Concentrated, short writing sessions are often the best time to produce new prose, as this process takes lots of mental energy. By working on your project every day, with whatever time you have available, the ideas around the project will percolate in the back of your mind throughout the day, making it easier to get back in the saddle and begin to write again when the time comes.

Ready, Set, Write!